The St. Louis Rams have made an attempt to draft and sign young playmakers on the outside to build an exciting offense. Not many will question the talent level or athletic abilities of the young receiving core made up of mostly first- and second-year players. The most productive piece of the offense from last year was Chris Givens after he hauled in five catches of 50 or more yards. The 2013 season has not fared as well for the second-year speedster though.
His early struggles were partially due to Sam Bradford‘s inability and willingness to make downfield passes. However, his latest showing was mostly due to his own hands of stone that resulted in several drops from Kellen Clemens. For some reason, he has lost his confidence and big-play ability.
So far, Givens has 30 catches for 493 yards, which is good for 16.4 yards per catch. His stat line is not improving from his first to second year in the league. The more troubling sign is that his longest catch of the year is 47 yards, and he has 0 TD catches for an offense that is in desperate need of explosive plays.
Tavon Austin has come on strong after a disappointing start to the season thanks to changes in Brian Schottenheimer‘s playbook. It is no coincidence that once the play-calling become more varied, Austin started finding the space needed for success. He has logged 39 catches for 409 yards and four TDs in his rookie campaign. While he has a high amount of drops in the offense, he seems to be improving and gaining confidence each week.
The Rams made a rare splash in the free agent market when they signed a freakish athlete in Jared Cook. Cook really hasn’t lived up to the hype, but he is the leading receiver in St. Louis with 40 catches for four TDs. His 13.9 yards per catch average is a solid number for the over-hyped TE. The biggest turnaround for Cook this year has been his blocking.
Bradford’s favorite option was not the most explosive receiver on the roster, but the sure-handed Austin Pettis. He has been great on third downs and in the red zone this year, hauling in four TDs and 20 first downs on just 29 catches. The 25-year-old wideout is excellent against zone coverage, and excels when it comes to finding the soft spots against zone defenses.
Lance Kendricks is the best blocking TE on the roster and has improved his pass-catching ability greatly compared to his first season, which was littered with drops. He may not get a handful of targets each game, but he manages to hold onto most passes thrown his way. He has brought in 23 catches for 172 yards and three TDs even while missing some time with a fractured finger.
Kendricks compliments Cook in the offense as he can be used as an inline blocker, fullback and is a viable receiving option with good athletic ability.
Brian Quick tends to get most of the negative attention for each boneheaded drop. He is similar to Brandon Gibson in the St. Louis offense. That is to say for each great play he makes, it is usually followed by an open drop. Quick is catching 50 percent of his targets this season for a 17.9 yards per catch average. He has connected on big plays and hauled in 16 catches compared to 11 last year. The second-year receiver has the second-longest reception of the year for the Rams at 73 yards to go with two TD catches.
Stedman Bailey entered the season as an unheralded rookie and former college teammate of Austin. Unless you paid attention to the special teams units, you probably wouldn’t have even known he was on the team. It’s hard to believe that Bailey couldn’t even get a handful of offensive snaps to start the year. He has been able to haul in five catches for 77 yards this season, averaging 15.4 yards a catch. Hopefully he can continue to gain playing time as he exudes more confidence with each catch.
The Rams’ receivers are still young, but they need to start producing more consistently if St. Louis dreams of being a contender in the NFC West.